Wednesday 31 July 2013

Mitsubishi A6M5b Model 52Otsu - 653Kokutai

The last posting of the month presents a number of stills from a very short vintage film featuring Mitsubishi A6M5b Model 52Otsu belonging to the 653Kokutai. The time is September 1944, when the unit was located in Oita base in north Kyushu to train new pilots and replenish losses from the Battle of the Marianas. The intense training resulted in accidental loses though. At that time the unit used only the number "653-" as tail marking and all the planes in the stills were built by Mitsubishi.
The first three stills are brilliant close-ups of a Mitsubishi built, as indicated by the straight green camo reaching the tail tip, plane with tail marking "654-42". Behind is "653-28". Note how clear and brand new all the planes are without the slightest of damage. A note to all modellers who overdo it with weathering. The Mitsubishi built 52s had a 75mm white band surrounding the fuselage and wing-top hinomaru, while on the Nakajima built the width of the white band was about 30mm.    

In the next set of stills below three 653Ku "Zeros" are taxing in full speed just before take-off. Note that two have unpainted spinners while one has a dark probably red brown one.


In the final set of a splendid close-up of "653-45" shows all the characteristics of the A6M5b Model 52Otsu especially the Type 3 13mm cannon on the starboard side of the cowling with the particular cartridge exhaust and the bigger gunport. Note also the separate exhausts and the barrel of the 20mm cannon.

Monday 29 July 2013

Visitors - The German Female Connection

On August 29, 1931 German aviatrix Margarete (Marga) von Etdzorf landed at Haneda, the new airport of Tokyo, with her Junkers A50 Junior registered D-1811. She was the very first non-Japanese aviator, male or female, to land in Haneda.
She had started on August 18 from Berlin and had flown over Siberia the very first woman solo pilot to do so. Her route stops were Königsberg-Moscow-Kazan-Novosibirsk-Hailar-Lake Baikal-Mukden (Shenyang)-Sinuiju (North Korea)-Pyongyang-Seoul-Daegu.
she finally arrived in Hiroshima on August 28 at 18:30 and was greeted enthusiastically. She spent the night at the famous at the time Kikkawa Ryokan and the next day at 07:20 took-off from Hiroshima, making a brief stop in Osaka before reaching Tokyo amid great celebrations.
A magnificent video on UTube about her from Junkers Filmdokumente shows her arrival in Tokyo.

Two days later on August 31 she was awarded the "yukosho" (Golden medal of Merit) from the Imperial Aviation Association.
On October 14 took-off from Haneda and traced back her steps in Japan but chose the Southern route for her return to Germany effort. Unfortunately her plane was destroyed in Bangkok where she suffered very serious injuries.
Feel free to send us more information!

Saturday 27 July 2013

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" (Jack) #2 J2M1 prototypes

  From the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 but especially from the second year, the Japanese Navy land based air units suffered from numerous attacks by Chinese bombers. The Type 96 Carrier Fighter or Mitsubishi A5M “Claude” was not fast enough to intercept the Soviet SB bombers of the Chinese Air Force and this created the need for a specialised land-based interceptor fighter. Requests by the 12Ku and the YokosukaKu detailed a fighter with less attention to manoeuvrability but definitely on speed. The Navy Aviation HQ started the first discussions with Mitsubishi in the Autumn of 1938 breaking apart from the previous time and resource consuming process of holding competitive trials between different company test aircraft. Nakajima was already focusing their attention on Army fighters so chief Mitsubishi designer Horikoshi Jiro was summoned in the Navy HQs on September 12, 1939 and received an unofficial order for a 14-shi interceptor.
  At that time Horikoshi had to choose between two engines, either the air-cooled Mitsubishi 13-shi He-Go kai (later Kasei) or the liquid-cooled Aichi 13-shi Ho-Go (later Atsuta). After making performance estimations and taking into account that high performance fighters of other countries like the British Supermarine Spitfire and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 were using inline engines, Horikoshi was leaning towards the liquid-cooled engine option. That was until April 22, 1940 when the Navy finally gave the official order for a single-seat, single-wing interceptor fighter requiring specifically an air-cooled engine to be installed. Maximum speed was to be at least 600km/h at 6,000m, it would have to take only 5min and half to reach that altitude, landing speed of 130km/h or less, maximum landing distance of 600m and take-off distance 300m, more than 0.7hours flight time at 6,000m at full speed, fixed pitch prop and an armament of two 7.7mm machine guns with 500bullets, two 20mm cannons with 60bullets and provision for two 30kg bombs. The Navy conceded that the handling characteristics could be less than perfect but in general they would be happier with a smaller size aircraft and for the first time asked for an 8mm armour plate behind the pilot. Horikoshi and his team opted for the large but powerful Kasei13 engine and the design of the aircraft evolved around the size of that engine with numerous meetings and long-hour discussions about techniques to reduce drag, increase the performance and for ease of production. At the same time the Mitsubishi team was quite busy working on the modified “Zero-sen” models so the first prototype was belatedly completed in February 1942 receiving the official designation J2M1.
  The very first company tests were on February 27-28, 1942 and the first flight on March 20, 1942 at Kasumigaura, with Mitsubishi test pilot Shima Katsuzo in the cockpit. From April 1st the first prototype was flown to Suzuka for further company tests while from the end of May flight tests were taken over by the IJNAF with Navy pilots Kofukuda and Lt Subo, followed by pilots Lt Hoashi, from YokosukaKu LtCdr Hanamoto and others. Although stability and controls were found satisfactory maximum speed and climbing time, the most important requirements were not. Furthermore, all pilots complained about poor forward visibility, found the aircraft difficult to land while problems arose with the landing gear retracting mechanism and the propeller.
  Sources for all the above information are the Japanese publications presented in the bibliography and credit should be given to Japanese aviation historians and researchers Akimoto Minoru and Watanabe Yoji. Careful readers will notice various differences with the main English source “Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War” by René J Francillon, Putnam (aka “the bible of Japanese WWII airplanes”).
  There are a number of problems regarding the J2M1. First of all, unfortunately no photos have surfaced of the very first prototype. Second, there are no official Mitsubishi documents mentioning the exact number of prototypes. Horikoshi in his book “Zero-sen”, Nihon Shupan Kyodo 1953, mentions that only three prototypes were completed, prototype #1, #2 and #4; as strange as this statement may sound. Nevertheless there are three high quality photos of J2M1 prototype #6 as indicated by the tail marking and the data plate. Apart from very early publications apparently when the photos of prototype #6 had not yet surfaced, all Japanese researchers agree that eight J2M1 prototypes were completed in total.
  And finally since there are no known photos of the other prototypes it is unknown if they were in any way different.
  AFAIK there are no known kits of the J2M1. Modifying any J2M2 might present a serious challenge with the need to elongate the fuselage and most importantly creating a new canopy.
The artwork below by our friend Devlin Chouinard shows J2M1 prototype #6 completed on July 3, 1942.

Note the 3-blade prop, the single collective exhaust and the cockpit looking more like belonging to a racing plane than a military aircraft. Overall colour is hairyokushoku, same as the Zero (please don't ask here details about the shade, hue etc used in the artwork). Tail marking could either be yellow (MM) or blue (FAOW, MA). No yellow IFF stripes. Spinner could be either hairyokushoku or unpainted. Important detail: all hinomaru without white suround.

Engine -  Kasei 13 air-cooled, twin row radial 14 cylinder, (1st gear) 1,400hp @ 2,700m, (2nd gear) 1,260hp @ 6,100m, climbing output: 1,430hp
Propeller - Sumitomo VDM, metal, 3-blade, fixed pitch, diameter: 3.20m
Dimensions - Span: 10.795m, Length: 9.90m, Height: 3.82m, Main wing area: 20.95sqm
Weights: Empty: 2,191kg, Fully equipped: 2,861kg,
Fuel: 710ℓ, Wing load: 143kg/sqm
Performance -  Max speed: 578km/h @ 6,000m, Service ceiling: 11,000m

Thursday 25 July 2013

Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" (Jack) #1 bibliography

While unxiously waiting for the forthcoming Zoukei Mura 1/32 model we start this long series of postings on the Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" (Jack) with a selective bibliography of Japanese publications.

BUNRINDO has released four publications in their Famous Airplanes Of the World series.

FAOW (Blue) #7, April 1968
FAOW (White) #7, July 1973


FAOW (White) #150, July 1985 
FAOW #61, November 1996

For non-Japanese speakers the FAOW series offers the best sellection of photos both in quality and number but less technical details. FAOW#61 shouldn't be absent from the library of any Japanese aviation fan with 104pages, 83 b/w photos and one vintage in-colour. 

The same year FAOW #61 came out, MODEL ART released their first "Raiden" special, "I.J.N. Interceptor Fighter RAIDEN (J2Mseries)" or simply MA#470.

MA#470, May 1996

Pages180, Photos 167b/w, 42 in-colour. There are 74 vintage b/w photos, one in-colour, 93b/w and 41 in-colour showing details of the restored J2M in the "Planes of Fame". In comparison, all the FAOW photos are vintage, none from the PoF.
Model Art #470 also includes drawings from the maintenance manual of the type and multi-view illustrations in 1:48 in a centerfold spread.   

In 2011 MODEL ART released a special in their "Profile" series since the older MA#470 was out-of-print. It's "Profile 11" or MA#831.

MA#831, October 2011
Pages 136, 42b/w vintage photos, 59 in-colour from the PoF and many in-colour in the modeling guide. There are again the maintenance manual drawings but most importantly there are 11 pages full of beautiful and most detailed illustrations by Saito Shigeo & Saito Kunihiko. The centerfold spread is not included but there is English translation of most photo captions.

GAKKEN has released Gakken #29 on the "Raiden" in their "Rekishi Gunzo-Taiheiyo Senshi Sirizu" (History Collection-Pacific War History Series).

Gakken #29, November 2000
Pages 182, Photos 51b/w vintage, 115 in-colour from PoF. The Gakken publication offers the best quality of photos of all the previous publications, even though their vintage photos are less numerous. It also includes the 1:48 multi view spread and plenty of aircraft details.

USHIO SHOBO released their first "Raiden" book 1977 in their Maru Mechanic series as number #7 and released it again together with #1 on the "Shiden/Shiden-kai" as number #43.

MM#7, November 1977
MM#43, November 1983

The Maru Mechanic series is world wide known for their old but excellently detailed publications. Unfortunately the very first nine numbers in the series are the least well done, with very few photos and details. As a result they are not particularly recommended.
All the above publication are 18X26cm or A5 size.

BUNRINDO has also released a brilliant photo-collection publication on the 302Kokutai; Koku Fan Illustrated series #96 (KFI#96). 

Pages 175, Photos 371b/w all vintage, Size 21X28cm. The publication is basically a photo album including photos of various types of aircraft as well as members of the unit and more. It is long out-of-print but VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Finally BUNSHUNBUNKO has released a pocket publication by historian Watanabe Yoji entitled "Kyokuchi Sentoki - RAIDEN" (Interceptor Fighter - Raiden).

"Raiden", July 2005
Pages 368, photos 94b/w all vintage, Size 11X15cm. Although an excellent publication detailing the history of the type and the units that flew it, it is all in Japanese, the photos are very small and therefore it is only recommended to very fluent Japanese speakers.

IN COMPARISSON: FAOW#61 offers the best sellection of vintage photos but little technical details; it's In Print. MA#470 (OOP) has more vintage photos and the in-scale drawings but MA#831 has the Saito illustrations and is In Print. Gakken #29 (OOP) has the best sellection of high quality photos but does not offer any artwork. The MMs are unfortunately outclassed. So for those who are only partially interested on the "Raiden" get either FAOW#61 or MA#831. For those who want more technical stuff, MA#470 or MA#831 and Gakken #29 are the best. And finally for those who really love Japanese aviation...need I say it?

NOTE: ALL publications (even the OOP) are available from our on-line store HERE, except ofcourse from KFI#96 which is highly sought after and only few small numbers eratically turn up. Don't hesitate to send us an email asking for availability.  

In my collection FAOW '73-7 has This cover!
-Jacob Terlouw

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Akagi Zero-sen diorama WIP#2 by Panagiotis Koubetsos

Hi all!
The part of the Akagi deck I’m going to show in my ‘Akagi Rei-sen’ diorama is finally done. The photo taken from Monografie Morskie 2 shows exactly that part. Having finished the deck I will concentrate on the structure of the Akagi island which is going to take a while, demanding as it is. I’d also like to thank George Eleftheriou for all the help he has given me to get on with my projects! Arigato Giorgo!
-Panagiotis Koubetsos-

I hope you all agree that the deck looks amazingly realistic!

Monday 22 July 2013

Vintage magazine cover

Cover of the July 1930 issue of magazine "Koku Jidai"...83 years ago. Another brilliant artwork by artist Suzuki Gyosui (see previous posting here). 

The flying boat is a Dornier Do J Wal belonging to the Nippon Koku Yuso KK, with the registration J-BARH and named "Kamitaka". It was the first Wal built by Kawasaki with parts imported from Germany and various modifications including changing the engines from Rolls-Royce Eagle, 360hp, to Kawasaki-BMW-VI, 500hp, and making room for six passengers in the front part of the fuselage with windows and cargo in the rear. The cockpit on this plane was located behind the passenger cabin. It was completed in October 1930 and tests in Kobe were most sasatisfactory. It was placed in the Osaka-Fukuoka route. The illustration shows the plane before it's completion without the name "Kamitaka" written on the fuselage side in hiragana

Saturday 20 July 2013

Manga - "The Sky Crawlers"

"The Sky Crawlers" is a Japanese anime movie based on the novel by writer MORI Hiroshi. The film was directed by Oshii Mamoru, creator of the famous and brilliant anime films Ghost in the Shell and its sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.
The animation for the "The Sky Crawlers" was created by Production IG and the film was released in 2008 by Warner Japan.
A quite interesting cast lent their voices including Kikuchi Rinko, "Babel" & Guillermo del Toro's 2013 film "Pacific Rim" as well as Kuriyama Chiaki, famous for her role in "Kill Bill, Volume 1" (she was as Gogo Yubari, the bad-ass schoolgirl bodyguard of yakuza boss O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu).

Here's what our good friend Devlin Chouinard has to say about the movie:

The Sky Crawlers
Impressions and Observations

  Imagine that you are an adolescent, maybe 16 or 17 years old,  fuzzy memories of childhood that are not quite yours. You cannot age. You fly and fight for the company as well for country in set-piece battles, as if from some great chess game. This is your entire reason for living, and dying.......
  The Sky Crawlers is an interesting mix of characters, aircraft, setting and story. Some things seem distinctly modern, while others are a throwback to times long past, all woven together. This can be seen mostly in the aircraft featured in the film, but also in the settings and other details. Characters, too, follow this same path, however they seem more up-to-date than old fashioned. Much of this is blended together rather well and seems to work.
  The story starts in the middle, the viewer finding out the “how and why” as the movie progresses. Much of the main characters' back stories are supplied in this manner. Some aspects of the story seem to raise more questions than answers and this leaves the viewer to fill in the blanks. This and the fact that the viewer is “dropped” into the situation, with little explanation of events, can leave one a bit lost at first.
  While the CGI rendered flying is fast paced and exciting, the rest of the film is quite slow, but very well done. I think this almost forces you to be in the same situation as the young pilots, moments of fast paced action interspersed with long periods of boredom. “Boredom” may be the wrong word in a way because there are subtle movements, sounds, and visual textures that can be observed throughout.
  One of the best visual elements of this movie are, of course, the aircraft. They look as though they are advanced prop driven World War 2 designs but with a modern twist. In fact, many will know the influences once they see them on the screen. All are rendered in CGI form and blend well with the traditional cell type animation. The backgrounds are well done, looking much like England and Europe in the 1940s, however the control tower at the airfield has a very up to date looking array of antennas! The same situation holds true for many things throughout the film - look for the flat screen television in the cafe that the characters frequent, for example! A mash-up between old and new.
  Even more interesting subjects are brought up by the characters - who and what they are, and  the emotional turmoil that they go through. You also find out other surprising twists dealing with the characters toward the latter part of the movie. There are enough turns in the plot to keep you interested, even in the slower parts of the film. In many ways, you will never know the complete story behind the characters. That part is left up to the viewer to work out as noted above.
  So, we end up in a strange world where past, present, and near future exist together, and while a bit slow moving at times, seems to convey the feeling and mood of what being in that situation must be like - too much time to think punctuated by life or death struggles. I would say that The Sky Crawlers works on many levels, but is especially interesting for those of us who like historic aviation and flying. It may not be a movie for everyone, but I found it very enjoyable and intriguing.

Note: The above article expresses my impressions of the film, and it is somewhat vague intentionally. I did not want to give anything away, and this may be looked upon as my attempt to get you to see the movie, and thus form your own opinion. 

Here's the opening scene of the film with the amazing air combat sequence.

We feature this anime on our blog because the fighter aircraft "Sanka Mk.B" is largely based on the Kyushu J7W Shinden as you can see from the blueprint below.

Some stills from the movie showing the beautiful artwork and various details of the aircraft. Note the contra-rotating prop, the position of the cannons and...the starter truck.

BANDAI has released a kit of the "Sanka Mk. B" in 1:72 but unfortunately it's not that easy to find.

A highly recommended film, especially for the aircraft scenes, that we are pretty sure will fill your head with modeling ideas of exotic and what-if planes.